The Department of Old Russian Literature was created within Pushkinsky Dom in 1932 on the initiative of academicians A.S.Orlov and V.N.Perets. From the moment of its origin till 1947 it had been headed by academician A.S.Orlov, later – by fellow-correspondent of the Academy of Sciences V.P.Adrianova-Peterts, and from 1954 till 1999 – by academician D.S.Likhachev. At present the Department is led by Doctor of Philology O.V.Tvorogov. In 1949, first as a part of the Department, there was created the Collection of Old Russian Books («Drevlekhranilische») that was headed by the Department researcher V.I.Malyshev (see the link «Manuscript Division: Collection of Old Russian Books»). The Department unique library was formed on the basis of personal book collections of its employees – academicians A.S.Orlov, V.P.Adrianova-Perets, D.S.Likhachev, that is why it possesses a great number of rare editions.
Among the main fields of the Department research work there are the study of the history of Russian literature of the XI-XVII centuries, study of source materials and archeography; textological study of Old Russian literary monuments, of poetics of Old Russian literature, of literary connections between Russia and Byzantium, Russia and Western Europe, of the interactions between Old Russian book culture and popular culture, of book centers of Central Russia and Russian North of the XV-XVIII centuries, of spiritual and book culture of Old Believers; studies of the Bible, chronicles and chronography; interdisciplinary studies of the problems of literature, icon-painting and book-production; description of manuscript collections from the fund of the Collection of Old Russian Books and of other libraries of Russia; compilation of bibliographies of Russian and foreign studies of Old Russian Literature; scholarly editions of Old Russian texts; preparation of the commented editions for general audience (the 12-volume series «Monuments of the Old Russian Literature» was awarded the State Prize of Russian Federation in 1993); preparation of academic and educational courses on the history of Old Russian literature, of text-books for Universities, of encyclopedias and dictionaries: the academic History of Old Russian literature (1941-1945; 1958; 1980), the academic «Dictionary of Bibliophiles and Book Culture of Old Russia» (in 7 installments, 1987-2003), of the encyclopedia of «The Song of Igor’s Campaign» (in 5 volumes, 1995), of the school manual «Literature of Old Russia: Bibliographical Dictionary» (1996); training of scientific personnel for Russian and foreign Universities.
The main directions of the Department activities are represented in the series published annually since 1934, «Transactions of the Department of Old Russian Literature» (in 2003 there was issued the 54th volume); in collections «Books Centers of Old Russia» (since 1991 till 2002 there had been prepared 5 issues); in a number of monographic studies of the monuments of Old Russian literature; in the continuing 20-volume series «The Library of the Old Russian Literature» (published since 1997, in 2003 there appeared the 12th volume). In 2002 the Department set on a new scholarly project – creation of a data base on Russian hagiography.
The Department of Old Russian Literature is the leading in this country research center for the study of Old Russian Literature. It has well-established links with most of the regional centers studying Old Russian literature, among them Departments of Russian Literature of Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Syktyvkar, Pskov, Yaroslavl, Petrozavodsk, Novgorod, and Novosibirsk Universities. Many of the professors of these Universities were post-graduate students at the Department. A great educational role is played by the conferences of young specialists organized by the Department that attract scholars from all over Russia.
In maintaining scholarly connections with the country regions especially important is the tradition of guest readings and conferences held by the Departments in different cities of Russia in collaboration with local scientific centers. Besides, the employees of the Department and the Collection of Old Russian Books often travel to other cities with the aim of assisting colleagues with methodological help in description of old manuscripts and the study of local manuscript collections.
The Department maintains regular international connections (with Slavicists from Germany, Great Britain, the USA, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Poland, Bulgaria and other countries). An example of such cooperation is the international conference «Monastery Culture: East and West» organized by the Department in 1998. At present we are forming a tradition of holding at Pushkinsky Dom of international Slavicistics’ symposiums devoted to the memory of the founder of Petersburg school of Middle Ages studies, who had been the head of the Department of Old Russian Literature for nearly half a century, Dmitry Sergeevich Likhachev – «Likhachev Readings» (the first Likhachev readings were held under the aegis of the Department on the first anniversary of D.S.Likhachev’s death in September 2000, the second – in November 2003).
At different periods among the Department workers there were such outstanding scholars as Professor I.P.Yeremin, Fellow-Correspondent of the Russian Academy of Sciences L.A.Dmitriev, Doctor of Philology R.P.Dmitrieva, Doctor of Philology Y.S.Lurie, Doctor of History N.A.Kozakova, and Academician A.M.Panchenko.
On the IRLI Internet site the Department work is represented with a fragment of the data base «Sources of Russian Hagiography. Catalogue» that reflects the card index of Russian hagiographic sources from the manuscript collections of the Collection of Old Russian Books of Pushkinsky Dom.